Monthly Archives: April 2017

Oh, We Have to Talk About Snape …

Snape

I never intended to fall in love with another fictional character, but I did. Over the course of the seven Harry Potter novels, Professor Snape won my heart by his courage and undying love for Harry’s mother, Lily Potter. No other fictional character, with the possible exception of Fitzwilliam Darcy in Pride and Prejudice, can hold a candle to Professor Severus Snape. As much as I love Fitzwilliam Darcy and all of his wonderful brooding moodiness, he is now a distant second. I have to ask myself why. Why, out of the hundreds of fictional characters I’ve been exposed to over my lifetime, does Severus Snape stand out?

Always

First, from the moment he is introduced in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, I was intrigued. Maybe it is because I am a writer, but Snape had “story!” written all over him. He obviously had a past, and I wanted to know more. If you haven’t realized it by now, I always want to know more, and secrecy is a surefire way to keep my interest. I cut my teeth on mysteries and only lost interest when they became too predictable. I argue that Snape is the final and best mystery revealed in the Harry Potter series. It is the love story – and it is a story born out of true love – that drives the action. I can’t imagine if I had lived the rest of my life without reading the entire series.

Second, Snape stands out due to the complexity of his character. It is telling that I immediately purchased and read Snape: A Definitive Reading by Lorrie Kim after I finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I became so caught up in the ending that I needed to go back and read the evidence. Kim’s Snape: A Definitive Reading painstakingly chronicles Snape’s actions throughout the entire series, even using quotes and page numbers. She provides just enough commentary to keep it from becoming too dry. It did help me more deeply appreciate the most complex fictional character I have ever come across.

Ever since I finished the series, I’ve asked myself why my favorite fictional characters from childhood – Laura from the Little House on the Prairie series, Anne of the Anne of Green Gables series, and Nancy from the Nancy Drew series – seem utterly dim when compared to the complexity of Snape? The answer is unbelievably simple. With the exception of Laura Ingalls, the characters mentioned above didn’t grow much throughout the course of the series, especially Nancy Drew. They were simply the same characters who were thrown into new situations. The fictional Laura is a special case because she did grow as a character in complexity and in age throughout the series. However, I find the real-life Laura Ingalls Wilder, the writer and mother who had a complex relationship with her only daughter, infinitely more interesting. Snape’s complexity is apparent from the beginning, but it doesn’t come front and center until the end of the series. I have nothing else to compare his character to at the moment. Nada.

Finally, Professor Snape’s love for Lily Potter and the courage he demonstrated in keeping both Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy safe, along with his final interactions with Dumbledore, almost defy the imagination. Yet, his entire life prepared him for and led him to the final events of the series. I can’t even begin to imagine how he managed to teach and face Harry Potter on a daily basis when all Snape could see in him was the man whom Lily Potter ultimately married. Snape felt responsible for James’ and Lily’s deaths, and he had a living, breathing reminder of that guilt and unrequited love in his classroom. Snape even managed to drill important lessons into his students’ heads outside of the classroom, knowledge that would ultimately help them survive. He may hold petty grudges and act extremely unprofessionally as a teacher, but he did get the job done.

After All This TIme

The Patronus

When I first read the scene in which Harry is led to the Sword of Gryffindor by the silver doe patronus, I knew that it was meant to be a pivotal point in the series, but I didn’t recognize just how pivotal it was until the final novel. We later learn that Snape’s patronus is Lily’s silver doe. He loved her that much. He never stopped loving her. If I were to write or describe magic, I would do so with the silver doe patronus scene in mind. So much love wrapped up in one simple, beautiful symbol. Not only is it a symbol of Snape’s undying, unrequited love for Lily, but I also see it as a symbol of Lily’s love of Harry – a mother’s love and protection. As a woman who grew up in the northern woods of Michigan, there are few things more beautiful than deer. There are few fictional scenes that leave me with goosebumps; this was one of them.

Undoubtedly I will read the entire Harry Potter series again, even if it isn’t until I have a child of my own. I am so glad that I read the entire series, even if I am not exactly a reader of fantasy. I can now fully understand why those novels will stand the test of time and inspire such a loyal following. I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Professor Snape. Always.

Know It All

Is it just me, or did Hermione Granger seem to have a bit of a crush on Professor Snape?

Gypsies – Part 2

Read gypsies part 1 here.

What can I say about these passport photos? They hold so many memories. Yes, even Grandma’s. I never did travel internationally with Grandma, with the exceptions of a trip to Aruba in the early 1990s and a trip to Ontario during my high school years, but she always supported my endeavors. I still have letters that she and Grandpa wrote to me during my first years at Michigan State. When I spent a semester in Quito, Ecuador, I came home one day to my host mother speaking on the phone in English with Grandma. At the time, I didn’t even know that my host mother spoke English that well! It turned out that she had studied abroad in Wisconsin.

One of my favorite stories took place in 2002 just before I was to leave for Austin, Texas to complete a six month co-op with Applied Materials. First, one has to understand that Texas has always loomed large in my imagination. My grandparents lived in Fort Worth during World War II. On Mom’s side, my great-grandfather spent the last years of his life outside of Houston ranching. Well, I think Grandma could tell I was a bit nervous as I said goodbye for several months. She told me, “You know, they are going to call you a damn Yankee!” Of course, I thought that she was joking. She always joked around. That may have been true in the ‘40s, but the early 21st century? Nah. It turns out the joke was on me.

In the days before GPS everywhere, I stopped at a grocery store to ask for directions to my new apartment complex. Unfortunately, I was lost. As soon as I opened my mouth, the man I had approached joked “Damn Yankee, huh?” and proceeded to laugh at my very Michigan accent. Then, he gave me the correct directions, and I was on my way. Literally the first words I heard in Texas were “damn Yankee.” All in good fun, of course. I ended up falling in love with Texas – Austin in particular – and planned to move there after my graduation from Michigan State. Well, I did move to Houston upon graduation, but frankly, I loathed Houston. It just wasn’t the same without my friends from Austin.

Today I am grateful that I moved back to Michigan. I would have never had those last years with my grandparents. As much as I love to travel, family means too much to me. As I am now a vital part of the future of the canoe livery, there are other considerations as well. Deep down, I always planned to come home, even if I didn’t want to admit it in my 20s.

As for those passport pictures, Grandma’s is one of my favorite pictures of her. During my later high school years, she traveled to Poland with family in order to see where her parents were born. She wanted to see where her parents’ grew up. That is why she ended up getting this passport in the first place. Over the years, she traveled extensively in the Caribbean and the United States. She hadn’t needed a passport since a trip to Brazil in the 1970s. As I waited for her in her car one day outside the canoe livery (we were headed somewhere, of course), I noticed her application for a passport. What struck me then was the names of her parents’ birthplaces. She had had to list the various countries those towns became a part of after World Wars I and II – a miniature lesson in the history of Eastern Europe during almost the entire 20th century – or so it seemed to me at the time. Even though I didn’t fully appreciate it until many years later, I think of the sacrifices my great-grandparents made to come to the United States legally. My great-grandmother was only in her teens at the time. I know what it is like to live in another country for a short period of time, but to never see your home country or parents again? I can’t begin to imagine.

My passport picture in another story entirely. When I see that picture, I think of how naive I was at the time. I can’t help but want to warn my 19 year-old self of the worst she’ll experience abroad – as well as tell her how worth it it all was, how much she will experience, most of it wonderful. I would tell her to not worry about all of the guys she’ll meet – none of them are “the one.” None of them are worth the heartache they will cause. Above all, have fun. Oh, and I would tell her that one day, she will want to teach Spanish. Take the necessary tests! It isn’t that easy to get fluency back once it is lost.

A Guarded Heart

I came across this passage not too long ago, and I keep coming back to the message. My personal experiences aside, I do believe that this is what most women – heck, what most people – are feeling after the break up of a long term relationship or even marriage. No one wants to think that they have loved in vain.

My bigger question here is this: When does guarding your heart against another broken heart cross into just shutting everyone out, period? There has to be a line, doesn’t there? I would love to know precisely where it is. I’m sure that it would be different from person to person, but how does one know where his or her personal line is? It is an intriguing question. Is it possible to get so caught up in oneself – dreams, ambitions, and so much more – that the idea of having a significant other just doesn’t matter anymore? I truly hope that I never arrive at that point. Yet, what if it doesn’t happen? That fact can’t be dwelt upon either, otherwise you end up miserable.

The Enemy Within

Enough. I have had enough. This past week, I received some test results that made me question why I ever listened to anyone who could not see my worth as a business woman. It is pathetic because I have struggled most of my life to be taken seriously as a business woman for a variety of reasons, and there it was, in black and white, that I had slowly over the years begun to believe all the garbage thrown my way. My ex used to get in my face about it and accused me of giving up on my business career all too soon. I absolutely hate to admit it, but he was right, in a sense. I had all but given up at that point. He may have had ulterior motives and never understood my need to become a teacher, but he was right. In spite of everything I’d been taught over the years by my parents, my dad in particular, I’d let others’ opinions of me matter when they should not. I just needed to get on with it and do what I need to do.

I feel as though I’ve been fighting an uphill battle since kindergarten. Until then, I didn’t realize that my body was that different from other girls my age – or that my self-worth in school (at least when it came to peers) as a female depended upon society’s arbitrary perception of physical beauty, athletic ability, and precious little else. I eventually made peace with the situation and focused on my education. I foolishly thought that things would change once I entered the workforce after college. The focus may not have been entirely on outward appearances, but it was still there. When combined with perceived notions of power and society at large, I really didn’t have much of a chance. Their loss, not mine.

Fortunately, I am meant to be a teacher. I hope I do have the opportunity to teach business classes. I also hope to teach my students, no matter what subject, that character counts. Practical and theoretical knowledge matters. It isn’t all about outward appearances. I will also teach them to have faith in themselves and not to let others damage their self-worth. It is too important. Everyone struggles with insecurities. Don’t let them define you or stop you from doing anything. Life is simply too short.

The thing is that I knew all of this back in high school, and yet, I allowed myself to be worn down by an awful economy and a lack of professional guidance, among other things. I began to doubt myself when I needed the self-confidence the most. Never again. I am done letting others define me, whether as a teacher, a business woman, a writer, and eventually, a mother. Only I know my whole story. Until you do, don’t judge. I firmly believe that everyone has a story. I just wish more people recognized this and were not so quick to judge.

Thinking Outloud

There is no other quote that could better sum up what I am doing here at Ramblings of a Misguided Blonde. I need to think aloud. If what I have to say helps someone, wonderful. This is where I come to make the connections I need to continue to grow as a reader and a writer. Maybe, just maybe, I will be able to bring my random thoughts into some kind of order. I admire people who say what they are thinking without regard to how others will perceive their ideas. It takes guts.

Lately the entire idea of body image keeps coming up. It is one thing I have struggled with for most of my life. I write about my experiences and thoughts here. I can’t believe that I am actually quoting Gloria Steinem, but this quote is worth it, even if I disagree with her on a wide variety of issues (read as in almost everything else).

“There is no ideal. … Beauty isn’t about how we look. It’s about trying to get us to do what society wants us to do, and once we realize that, it helps, I think, to honor ourselves as individuals and the uniqueness and the specialness and the greatness of our own bodies.” – Gloria Steinem

Read more: Oprah.com